PUEBLO, Colo. - Those who live near an old smelter site in Pueblo want to know if toxic metals have been absorbed into their blood.
The Colorado Smelter once operated near Santa Fe and I-25. Mary Jimenez has lived near there for more than 50 years. Until recently, she had no idea a smelter site once existed close to her home.
"We used to just dig our hands in there and then our children too and my grandchildren," Jimenez said. "I did wonder if we had some lead in our blood, I did wonder being that we've lived in this area for so long."
On Saturday, she had her blood tested for lead. Dr. Moussa Diawara, a CSU-Pueblo biology professor, found she had no reportable lead levels. Just three of the 36 people tested had high lead levels in their blood.
"Actually I did expect a lot worse, to be quite honest with you. I went in Saturday thinking here we go," Diawara said.
But Diawara says his studies are nowhere near done. "I'm hoping to be able to extend this study to everyone who wants to be tested, including adults- just for people to have their peace of mind."
Jimenez said, "I am concerned my daughters, you know, 'cause they played around in this neighborhood, went to school at St. Mary's which is close to that site."
They no longer live in Pueblo, but Jimenez says she wants them to get tested too.
"If you know you don't have it, that already is healthier for you," Diawara said.
Diawara said it's easier for children to reverse the signs of lead exposure than adults. He said the best way to do it is for people to remove themselves from the source of contamination and to eat a healthy diet. Eventually, he says, the body gets rid of the lead.